The Swamp Thing #9 – Review

Following the events of ‘In My Infancy’, Ram V and company bring us to a new chapter, ‘Conduit’.

The Swamp Thing #9

Written by: Ram V
Art: Mike Perkins
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Published by DC Comics
Released -Nov 2021

The cover for issue 9 feels like a promotional poster for a title fight, more so with the tagline ‘Brother vs. Brother’. This continues a vibe established by Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer on the title page of last issue, only here Levi/Swamp Thing faces his brother Jacob as the warped, vengeful perversion of the Green he has become. It’s powerful stuff, exuding the inner turmoil of both characters. Perhaps fight promoters ought to be approaching these guys to do some poster work…

Following the events of ‘In My Infancy’, Ram V and company bring us to a new chapter, ‘Conduit’. Part one opens on Jennifer Reece (Levi Kamei’s close friend/love interest) being ‘escorted’ through an imposing facility to meet with the apparent mastermind behind the machinations of the Prescot corporation. Mr. Pilgrim seems to know a lot about her, Levi and the Swamp Thing and, perhaps more dangerously, hints at considerable knowledge of The Green.

We then cut to New York and Levi trying to visit Jennifer, only to discover her missing. What follows is classic Swamp Thing and shows a much more ‘in-tune’, self-assured Levi as he puts his abilities to work tracking Jennifer down.

The story goes from there, with Ram V giving us a matter-of-fact ‘villain’ in Mr. Pilgrim, who goes on to outline his version of the big picture. In his hubris, he is quite unaware of the doom that approaches. It’s not long before chaos unfolds, with Jacob arriving to lay waste to the Prescot site.

As ever, this is a compelling read, initially offering a few moments to breathe following last issue’s action packed, fast paced events. Ram V does a great job of revealing the man behind the curtain while also showing us a more confident Levi alongside a further portrait of his brother, Jacob. The history of Prescot an Mr. Pilgrim’s involvement with Swamp Thing and The Green unfolds over a fascinating and brilliantly executed double page spread; one of many highlights in this issue.

Mike Perkins brings us everything here, from clever use of organic structures as both frames and panel elements through to inventive action and intricately rendered human emotion. His artwork is consistently amazing and is always perfectly complimented by Mike Spicer’s colours, whose palettes guide our subconscious mind as we read. Every colour choice has a purpose, beyond the function of looking good. Spicer makes a lab seem cold, a person seem even angrier, a moment of violence all the more unsettling.

As an interesting side note here on the subject of colours, at a recent panel discussing Swamp Thing, Mike Perkins and Ram V talked about some of the palette used in the title and its predecessors. Apparently, forests and swamps are often rendered in shades of purple so that Swamp Thing can stand out against the backdrop (avoiding a green-on-green mush of confusion). We can see this on not only the cover of issue 9 but in several interior panels as well.


Verdict

From cover to cover, this is an outstanding experience, with one of the best creative teams bringing us one of the best titles. It holds so much for the reader to engage with and gives us characters and events that we actually care about. And after all that, it’s full of cool things that we can check out again and again and say ‘wow’ to. I know I’m a proverbial stuck record on this, but Swamp Thing really is just that good.


Review by Andy Flood, 17/1/22



The Swamp Thing #8 – Review

Reading ‘In my Infancy’ part 3, we open on a scene with Nightmare Nurse offering a warning to Peacemaker which serves as a strong reminder of the true nature of what Levi Kamei has become.

The Swamp Thing #8

Written by: Ram V
Art: Mike Perkins
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar

Published by DC Comics
Released – October 2021

With the cover of issue 8, Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer bring a new, twisted meaning to the notion of becoming one with nature. We see the suggestion of Swamp Thing in the throes of emergence or rebirth, his features in a tortured scream as he regenerates from within an ancient tree in the Kaziranga forest. Perkins’ tangled, twisted lines are used to great effect here and are made all the more unsettling by Spicer’s unusual colour choices. We’re very much transported to the setting before we even open up the book.

Reading ‘In my Infancy’ part 3, we open on a scene with Nightmare Nurse offering a warning to Peacemaker which serves as a strong reminder of the true nature of what Levi Kamei has become. Her words are punctuated as we turn to the spectacular title page, depicting a ‘rumble in the jungle’ between Swamp Thing and Chemo. It’s a double page spread straight out of an old monster flick or kaiju movie, and is yet further proof of the quality of this title.

In order to save Kaziranga Forest and himself, Levi/Swamp Thing must now face the remaining members of The Suicide Squad along with powerful memories, not all his own. As he is ambushed by a frenzied Parasite, we see Parasite’s grim origin (featuring further DC cameos). This segues into a sequence of Levi’s memories as the two combatants share an osmosis of recollection.

It’s an interesting and uniquely ‘Swamp Thing-esque’ way to resolve a showdown, and while the two brutish forms still go toe-to-toe, the real battle is fought in the mind. In what proves to be an issue jam packed full of action and revelation, Levi then goes on to face not only Peacemaker but his brother too, who bears a warning and hints of the larger tapestry at work.

In a run that has been unfailingly good in every way, this issue stands as perhaps one of the most ‘non-stop’ reads. Certainly, the Swamp Thing versus Suicide Squad element of the ‘In my Infancy’ story has been full of crowd pleasing moments (particularly in light of Peacemaker’s appearance in the recent DC film). But while Ram V writes to entertain, filling each page with cool stuff, he also gives us food for thought, each and every time. That’s one of the really great things about his work.

In a similar way, the work of his teammates, from the art of Perkins and Spicer to the ever-inventive lettering of Aditya Bidikar can be appreciated on a number of levels. There’s the initial read-through that gives the ‘wow’ factor, and then there’s the times when you look again and see the really clever things going on throughout.


Verdict

Swamp Thing #8 is a superb comic, being hugely worthy of the series’ reputation. It’s an ongoing testament to the remarkable talent of its creators that we get to read something exciting, cerebral and immediately relevant to our current world. I recommend you take a trip to The Green, maybe even stay a while. You’ll be glad you did.


Review by Andy Flood, 13/1/22


Amazing Fantasy #3 – Review

Amazing Fantasy is a title I’d strongly recommend for anyone either intrigued by the lovely cover art, curious about the displacement of some key Marvel heroes, or who wants something a little different.

Amazing Fantasy #3

Story: Kaare Andrews
Art: Kaare Andrews
Colours: Brian Reber
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Released October 2021

I keep coming back to the covers for Amazing Fantasy 1 and 2 over and over, just to enjoy them, to find new details, to appreciate the skill of their creator. This one’s no different.

Here we have Black Widow, framed by an unmistakably alien vista, the victor of a battle against strange foes. It’s a wonderful piece of art by Kaare Andrews, once again nodding to his influences while creating something suited to the modern age. There’s a strong retro-futurism feel here, recalling the work of greats such as Ed Emshwiller, Virgil Finlay and the fantastical cityscapes of Frank R. Paul. There’s more than a dash of Rodney Matthews here too and, as each of these fantasy and sci-fi greats brought us whole new worlds of incredible imagination, so too does Kaare Andrews with his cover art here. If there are any elements that draw you in, be it the gorgeous rendering of Black Widow and alien companion, the Soviet rocket ship, the strange structures on the horizon, then you would do well to not only check out this run but also investigate Andrews’ predecessors.

While each of the three primary covers for Amazing Fantasy so far have been worthy of the ‘amazing’ tag and very much stand on their own, they also serve to signal a comic story which places its characters in situations and settings which are several steps from the norm. While the atypical nature of Andrews’ title might be divisive when it comes to audience, there are enough familiar elements to ease readers into this new world and allow them to enjoy the adventure.

And what an adventure it is! The action moves at quite a pace now, and early in this issue Andrews’ establishes the drums of war as a central theme. Certainly tensions have been building as each of the three main characters find their feet in this strange new land.

Another familiar face from the Marvel universe makes her entrance proper while a young king, Black Widow at his side, makes a bid to avert the impending conflict. Meanwhile, Captain America (in full pulp hero mode) attempts to rally the tribe of the Cat People to act against instinct and tradition in order to defend themselves. Spider Man/Peter Parker remains with the people of Dragon Rock, who make their own preparations.

Add to all this, two other bestial tribes, both of whom chomp at the bit for conflict, and soon we hear the drums start; DOOM, DOOM, DOOM. Moments of court intrigue and quiet reflection are done. Now is the time for battle to be joined.

Andrews switches to epic wide panels to depict both the prelude to war and its main act, a technique which works to great effect, especially when paired with the repeated sound of drums, literally spelling doom. The action is enhanced further by Brian Reber’s colours, shifting here to a dark, hellish palette and so fully immersing us in the grim events facing our heroes. The writing is working well too, with tight dialogue and good characterisation. Kaare Andrews guides us through his ‘Island of Death’ with confidence and no small amount of mystery, supported throughout by some great lettering work from Joe Sabino, who presents the words clearly while respecting the artwork.

The story brings a good number of dramatic moments, reveals and twists; certainly enough to make for a compelling page turner. By the time we reach the cliffhanger ending, we are left ready to read on, to look forward to the next instalment. And, as the preview of issue four’s cover would indicate, yet more stunning art to appreciate.


Verdict

Amazing Fantasy is a title I’d strongly recommend for anyone either intrigued by the lovely cover art, curious about the displacement of some key Marvel heroes, or who wants something a little different. As an added plus, this is a limited run and as such should be easy to track down and collect in its entirety. There are some great variant covers around for each issue too, so seek them out if you can!


Review by Andy Flood, 11/1/22


Tales From The Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 – Throwback Review

Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 is part of a 10-issue series that puts a new spin on some of the biggest events in DC comics history, by looking at them from alternative realities, where all the wrong choices were made.

Writers: Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins
Art: Javier Fernandez
Colors: Alex Guimaraes
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Released: 16/10/19
Published by DC Comics

The first single issue comic book that ever I bought, as opposed to a collected edition graphic novel or movie adaptation, was issue 19 of Batman: Shadow of the Bat. It featured a man named Jean Paul Valley, wearing a brutal looking variation of the dark knight’s costume, traipsing around like he was Batman. I was so offended by this notion that I scratched a mark across the front cover of that very comic book. Little did I know at the time, that the long running story-line (Knightfall, Knightquest and Knight’s End) of which that issue was but a fraction, would go on to become one of my all-time favourite Batman stories.

Something else I didn’t know at that time was that the man parading himself around as Batman, Jean Paul Valley, would go on to become a huge part of my life as a comic book reader (I own all 100 issues of the original Azrael comic book run and have written a rejected screenplay for an animated movie featuring the character’s origin story). So it goes without saying that anything featuring links to Knightfall, in particular Jean Paul and Azrael, peaks my interest big time!

Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 is part of a 10-issue series that puts a new spin on some of the biggest events in DC comics history, by looking at them from alternative realities, where all the wrong choices were made. In the case of this particular story, Bruce Wayne’s Batman did not defeat Jean Paul Valley at the climax of Knight’s End, leaving Jean Paul to wage a religious war against crime for thirty years in Gotham. The result is catastrophic. Without his defeat at Bruce’s hands, Jean Paul’s instability has brought ruin to the city, whose people are now divided into two camps: those who worship “Saint Batman” and those who secretly yearn for someone to save them from Jean Paul’s tyrannical rule. That possible salvation comes in the shape of a man claiming to be the son of the super villain, Bane, as well as the highly skilled martial artist, Lady Shiva. As they lead an assault on Valley’s forces it becomes clear that victory may depend on one man; Bruce Wayne, or what’s left of him. But can thirty years of brokenness be overcome by the former Dark Knight?

Writers Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins do a great job here of capturing the flavour of the Batman comics from the 90’s. If you look at where the character of Jean Paul was at the time in which this story kicks off (a slave to “the system” seeing visions of “Saint Dumas”) then it’s logical to assume that the path he might head down would be not too dissimilar to what we get here.

There is a tendency, for anyone who isn’t named Dennis O’Neil, to write Jean Paul as a religious nut-job with a psychopathic personality. Check out a recent iteration of the character depicted in the pages of Legends of the Dark Knight for a prime example. But to do so is to strip him of all the growth he achieved as a character during the years that O’Neil was writing him after the events of Knightfall. It takes him twenty steps backwards and fails to understand what O’Neil was doing with the character. But Snyder and Higgins set their story at the perfect moment in time to justify taking Jean Paul down the kind of rabbit hole that most other writers should be trying to avoid. For this reason I am able to go on the journey willingly as we see what might have been.

Snyder and Higgins focus on one of the key aspects of Jean Paul’s character that O’Neil was always trying to explore, which was the fact that, Jean Paul’s father not really having been there for him means that he has got some serious daddy issues. He looks for approval from the closest father figure he has had in his life, which is Bruce Wayne, without being emotionally equipped to function beyond what “the system” has programmed him for. And so he remains locked in an internal battle concerning his own identity. That was always the journey of the character that O’Neil played out. The question of, “who am I?” constantly hung on Jean Paul’s shoulders. We find Jean Paul here having decided who he is, and yet still seeking that approval from Bruce, which will never be forthcoming. It makes him a tragic figure rather than a mere nut-job playing at being Batman.

Another key influence for Snyder and Higgins appears to be Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”. It’s a cliché these days to name that particular work as an influence. But it’s almost inescapable. If you look at where we find Bruce’s Batman at the start of TDKR, we are given an almost plausible journey to show how he became that particular version of the Batman. It’s clearly not the same, but with a few tweaks here and there, it very well could be. Gotham City certainly looks ripe for a mutant takeover by the time we reach the end.

Javier Fernandez does a great job on the art work. I love his design of Jean Paul’s evolved Batman costume. It looks like a variation on his famous Knightquest costume, with a bit more medieval knight vibes added in for good measure. Another gripe I have, besides different writers tackling the character, is with different artists who’ve come to draw Jean Paul’s Azrael over the years and their purposeful attempts to simplify his costume. The original Azrael costume, designed by Joe Quesada, is quite simply one of the best costume designs in comic book history. The iconic Az-Bats costume of the “Knightquest” era is also a particular standout for me. So it’s great to see Fernandez putting as much care and attention into making something that looks just as iconic.

This book made me yearn for the days where Jean Paul was a part of my life each month. He’s never been a particularly popular character, no doubt due to the threat he posed to the mantle of the bat. But maybe it’s time for a reappraisal of the impact this character has had upon the legacy of Batman. And maybe it’s time writers like Snyder and Higgins were encouraged to bring Jean Paul back into regular continuity with a monthly title all of his own again. On the strength of this, I’d say he deserves it.


Verdict –
An absolute must-read for fans of 90’s era Batman comic books. Snyder and Higgins do a great job of re-imagining the ‘Knightfall’ legacy, without betraying the roots of the original story or it’s characters.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 08/01/21

The Amazing Spider-Man #81 – Review

As Ben and Marcus (Ben’s supervisor) discuss their plan to attack, Marcus brings up the fact that since its in Brooklyn, there’s a mighty high chance Miles will ‘swing’ by onto the scene…

The Amazing Spider-Man #81

Written by: Saladin Ahmed
Artwork by: Carlos Gómez
Published by Marvel Comics 15/12/21

One of the most anticipated chapters of BEYOND is finally upon us! The two rookie Spider-men collide in one action packed issue with a brand new creative team of Saladin Ahmed and Carlos Gómez.

This issue starts with (I believe an introduction of a new villain) Rhizome being spotted on the loose in Brooklyn. I’ve attempted to do some digging and it looks like this is the first appearance of Rhizome which is a welcome addition. Just to have ANY new marvel villains in this day and age is quite a feat, the last time Spider-man faced a new villain was Kindred back in 2018! Hopefully we get more new villains in Spidey’s future, fingers crossed.

As Ben and Marcus (Ben’s supervisor) discuss their plan to attack, Marcus brings up the fact that since its in Brooklyn, there’s a mighty high chance Miles will ‘swing’ by onto the scene, being the Borough’s resident web-slinger. Ahmed seems to really know how to give characters a personality, like most of the beyond issues, he manages to add in titbits of humor and depth to the character of Ben Reilly. Like in the introductory scene, we get some nice quips and when asked to enforce the Beyond trademark on Miles, Ben is weary but still accepts. Little pieces of characterization like this makes the characters feel more real and show readers Ben isn’t just blindly following Beyond’s orders. This is also been building up throughout the storyline which, by the end, I’m sure Beyond will be exposed and/or put out of commission by the friendly neighborhood you-know-who.

A character I really love in this Spider saga is Janine Godbe. She’s Ben’s girlfriend and she’s an interesting, 3-dimensional person. She first appeared back in the infamous clone saga in 1995’s Spider-man: the lost years, she’s had a complex story involving her having to take her own fathers life . After the clone saga ended however, Marvel figured that to tie up a loose end, they’d just throw her in prison for her justified crime (see why its justified in the said 90’s mini-series, its really good!) And practically shelved the best new character of the clone saga. But now, she’s back in the mainstream Spider-man series and it’s always fun when she shows up. Anyway, apologies for the tangent. Ben checks in with Janine and takes off to Brooklyn.

As Ben makes his way to the scene, he showcases his awesome Spider-wings that actually make him fly, which is totally awesome. Once he gets to the area of destruction, he discovers that Rhizome is nowhere to be seen and that’s when Miles shows up on the case. After Miles realises Ben isn’t the Usual Spider-man doing the rounds, they have a cool little sparring match which showcases each others abilities , since they’re both semi newcomers, they’re pretty evenly matched and the fight only ends once Ben blurts out Peter’s name, showing that he is connected to the OG Spider-man. Ben and Miles talk it out and find that they had actually met in Spider verse/Geddon. The both of them do some duties around the block that was damaged and save a few lives, deciding to team up and find the loose Rhizome which Ben manages to do with ease due to Beyond’s advanced tech.

The fight with Rhizome goes down pretty swiftly with the two Spider-men using a combination of Ben’s webs and Miles’ venom sting to take down the force of nature which, in actuality, was just a guy in a fancy suit supplied by an enemy Miles knows called “the Assessor”. This serves as Miles exit point as he goes to track down the Assessor and whatever other juiced up villains he has on hand with Ben and Miles making a friendship and the former doesn’t attempt to give Miles any kind of warning. The fight was beautifully drawn by the hugely underrated Carlos Gómez who has done some amount of work in almost every marvel book you can possibly imagine. The guys art leaps of the page and has so much energy in it, it makes the issue go so much faster and has you missing it once its over, brilliant stuff.

Thus issue concludes with Ben receiving a Scolding from Head of Beyond, Maxine Danger which results yet another Beyond lecture on how the company has poured so much resources into him and Janine, (the Beyond lecture may actually become a villain of its own so make sure to buy five copies of the first time Ben Reilly’s most dangerous foe appears!!!) These things never seem to get through to Ben however and I’m sure he’ll continue in his rebellious, good hearted ways. As an epilogue, Maxine is revealed to be holding a jar of the material Rhizome was made out of, this might mean that Maxine danger planned the villain to break free and unite Ben and Miles? Or maybe it even means Danger herself is the Assessor, which would give Miles a far bigger part in the story. All interesting stuff!


This issue of the Amazing Spider-man lived up to its well deserving title. Exciting and mesmerizing art coupled with an edge of your seat script make a stellar issue of the webbed wonders adventures. Be here soon for an oddball tale of a problem in Peter Parker’s medical ward…


Review by Leo Brocklehurst


Batman #118 – Review

The team of writer Joshua Williamson and artists, Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin, kick off their 4-issue arc with ‘The Abyss Part I’.

‘The Abyss Part I: “Now it’s a Party!”’
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin
Colours: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles

Released: 07/12/21
Published by DC Comics

The team of writer Joshua Williamson and artists, Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin, kick off their 4-issue arc with ‘The Abyss Part I’. Coming off the back of Fear State, which was wrapped up last issue, the team are given the opportunity to tell a story of their own that isn’t bogged down by any crossover necessities. There isn’t even a backup story in this issue. For anyone who knows me, you can imagine how much that cheers me up! The end result is worth the cover price.

Williamson begins his story with a bit of playful fun, sending Batman off to deal with some gatecrashing robbers, at a billionaire’s fancy dress ball. It reminds us of just how sharp Batman is, always watching people, always taking note of the little things that most common people would never see. This skill comes into play at the back end of this issue too, as Batman surveys a crime scene in the aftermath of a supposed killing, involving a new villain called Abyss. We are not given much to go on with this character; just enough to create a sense of intrigue.

Williamson also does a good job of showing us what kind of man Bruce is throughout, which makes this particular issue a good place for new readers to begin their journey with the character. Seeing the interaction between him, Oracle and Nightwing, perfectly encapsulates what he is all about. Without a crisis to solve he seems lost. He has nothing to do but wait for something to kick off. You can almost sense the relief from him, as he avoids having to eat morning bagels with Dick and Barbara, while he runs off to Badhnisia to get stuck into a murder investigation.

The artwork here is simply gorgeous! Image after image, panel after panel, page after page: there’s nothing here that isn’t worthy of being cut out, framed, and hung on a wall. It’s just beautiful.

The theme of the aforementioned billionaire’s ball allows for some striking visuals. Tomeu Morey continues his work here on colouring duties, once again doing a marvelous job. A particular two page spread affords him the opportunity to go wild. I love the ways in which he lights a scene, almost like a movie’s director of photography. He is certainly one of the best in the business right now.

Batman #118 is an absolute delight! Of course, we will need to see where Williamson takes this story before a full judgment can be made, but if he continues to balance the playfulness with the intrigue, in the way that he does here, then we are in for a treat. If not, then you’ve always got some great pinup art for your wall!


Verdict –
Absolutely stunning artwork, from Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin, and a fun story that builds plenty of intrigue, from writer Joshua Williamson, really kicks off this new run in tremendous fashion!


Review by Bryan Lomax, 05/01/22

Detective Comics #1045 – Review

In the final part of writer Mariko Tamaki’s story, ‘Nakano’s Nightmare’, Mayor Nakano must put aside his differences with Batman so that the two men might destroy the parasitic virus

Detective Comics #1045

Writers: Mariko Tamaki (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and Stephanie Phillips (“Foundations Part Two”)

Art: Dan Mora (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and David Lapham (“Foundations Part Two”)

Colors: Jordie Bellaire (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and Trish Mulvhill (“Foundations Part Two”)

Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and Rob Leigh (“Foundations Part Two”)
Released: 23/11/21
Published by DC Comics

In the final part of writer Mariko Tamaki’s story, ‘Nakano’s Nightmare’, Mayor Nakano must put aside his differences with Batman so that the two men might destroy the parasitic virus, originally unleashed by Hue Vile, which has been terrorizing Gotham. Then Stephanie Phillips delivers part two of ‘Foundations’, which sees Batman chasing down a deranged man intent on destroying any chance of rebuilding Arkham Asylum, only to be confronted with a surprise visit from a former member of his rogue’s gallery.

I’m glad to see Tamaki’s story finally being brought to its conclusion. Truth be told, this particular run feels like it has gone on a lot longer than it needed to, with a somewhat muddled direction. It started out with an interesting new villain in the shape of Vile, who was then sidelined to make way for Mr Worth, only to fizzle out here with a giant monster that is ultimately destroyed in such a way that ties it directly to a particular moment in time during the whole Fear State climax. This would all be fine, except it really does become very confusing to work out what has happened when, and why the events that have happened elsewhere in DC’s Batman comics haven’t had more of a direct impact on each other.

It’s next to impossible to see how everything that has been happening with Scarecrow, Simon Saint, Peace Keeper-01 and Miracle Molly, over in Batman, could possibly be weaved into all the story threads that have supposedly been happening at the same time over here in Detective Comics. It seems to me that Tamaki’s hands have been tied by the whole Fear State thing, and so we get a story that is fighting for its own identity, whilst being hampered by the need to tie in to the bigger picture.

Ultimately, having Nightwing show up at one particular point in the story is a big mistake, as this was Batman and Nakano’s story. It should have stayed that way. As it happens, I do like the character of Nakano, and the direction they seem to be heading with regard to his and Batman’s relationship is something that has been sorely lacking without the presence of Jim Gordon. This should begin to fill that void quite nicely. Although, yet again, I am reminded that certain information that Batman gives to Nakano surely should have been the very thing that got Bruce Wayne released from prison a considerable number of issues back. How does Nakano NOT know this already!

Despite my mixed feelings across this whole story-line, I would love to see Tamaki continue on Detective Comics now that she is free from the shackles of ‘Fear State’. Let’s see what she can do when she is allowed to remain self-contained. Also, Dan Mora’s artwork has certainly been a highlight throughout this run, so I would be more than happy to see him stick around.

With ‘Foundations’, writer Stephanie Phillips poses the question, “Is Arkham Asylum truly worth rebuilding?” After all, it can hardly be noted for it’s stellar track record in releasing flocks of cured patients back out into the world, ready to contribute to society. It’s a nice little page-turner, which has the feel of something that might have appeared within the pages of ‘Legends of the Dark Knight’, back in the nineties. As I read it though, I am struck by the thought, “what if Bruce Wayne put all the funding into a place like Arkham, making sure to hire the best mental health practitioners in the world?” Instead of dumping people like Scarecrow and Joker into Arkham, only to wait for their inevitable breakout, Bruce could use his resources to take a more active role in their recovery.


Verdict –

The end to Mariko Tamaki’s contribution to the ‘Fear State’ saga really does feel like a long time coming, perhaps ending with more of a, “meh”, than a, “hurrah”. But it sets up some enticing prospects for the future, whilst the second part of Stephanie Phillips’ ‘Foundations’ poses an interesting question, which only leads to more questions (in the best possible way).


Review by Bryan Lomax, 04/01/22

The Amazing Spider-Man #80 – Review

As far as writing goes, I see no flaws with this issue. It’s tight witty and funny, everything The Amazing Spider-man should be in my opinion…


Amazing Spider-man #80

Written by: Cody Ziglar

Artwork by: Michael Dowling

Published by Marvel comics

KRAVEN GOD TIME!!! In case you didn’t see my last review (in which case, what on earth are you doing?) The all-new Spidey is all drugged up on kraven’s mystical hallucinogens and is running scared from a huge God like Kraven creature. The newest beyond chapter pulls no punches and throws you right into the action, so let’s dig in quick before it’s over!

Whilst entranced by the poison running through his veins, Ben Reilly is thrust into a flashback of sorts where we get two incredible splash pages done by artist Michael Dowling (whose art in this issue is especially gorgeous) where we get to see Ben Reilly’s greatest fear on show in front of his eyes; the feeling he’s nothing more than a hollow shell of Peter Parker (who is a clone of. So technically, y’know…he is) upon seeing the grotesque illusions, Ben plummets down into an alleyway where Kraven waits for him as he tells Spidey that the trial has only just begun.

Snap back to reality (oh!) where the beyond corporation is in a state as to where their Spider-man has gone when Ben’s personal supervisor Marcus receives a call from Ben’s girlfriend Janine, also in a frenzy about Ben’s disappearance, she proceeds to give Marcus a verbal whooping if the rear and tells him he better bring Ben back alright.

Ben is not alright. He wakes up in some dark room, surrounded by other kidnapped civilians (who he sees as weird anthropomorphic dudes). One of the civilians who was seen in the bar last issue, gives Ben some of Beyond’s wonderful hangover pills to discard the hallucinations in the funniest Spider-man scene in the last however long where Spidey adjusts to the animal creatures in front of him, its very funny. Read it.

After coming to his senses and getting of that room, Ben discovers that he’s on a huge cargo boat when Kraven attacks him in a pretty exciting fight. Ben eventually over powers Kraven, tossing him over into a vat of some sort of chemicals. Before Kraven can be apprehended however, he disappears into the mist. Never to be seen again, even though of course he will be seen again because he’s Kraven.

Spidey gets back to beyond tower and reunites with Janine and all is well in the Reilly household, but maybe not the Morales one. Chief supervisor at beyond Ms. Danger (brilliant name) prepares to send the new Spider-man to take out Brooklyn’s very own Web slinger!


As far as writing goes, I see no flaws with this issue. It’s tight witty and funny, everything The Amazing Spider-man should be in my opinion, props to Cody Ziglar! Art duties in the book were covered by the previously mentioned Michael Downing who delivers some really beautiful art in this comic so we’ll done to the beyond team, keep it up. Stay tuned for next issue’s spider throw down!!


Review by Leo Brocklehurst on 20/12/21

Batgirls #1 – Review

This is a comic that will certainly appeal to younger female readers who will instantly identify with the personalities of the three main characters

BATGIRLS #1

Written by: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad

Art: Jorge Corona
Released: February 2022

Published DC Comics

Described on DC’s website as “the pizza slumber party you don’t want to miss,” this new six-part series by writers Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad is filled with the kind of energy you’d expect to see at, well, a teenage girls’ slumber party!

Ever since Batgirl Cassandra Cain handed over the reins to Stephanie Brown (who, as Spoiler, kicked back teenage-rebellion-style at her criminal father the Cluemaster), fans have been eagerly awaiting a team-up of the two friends. Under the watchful eye of Barbara Gordon, the three move into an apartment on the outskirts of Gotham, away from the mysterious Seer and, hopefully, any criminals who might test their combined strengths. This being Gotham, it isn’t long until Cass has to take down a gang of thugs, leading her and Steph to a hide-out where they kick butt and face down a group of workmen who appear to be under some kind of hypnotic spell. Throw in a spate of murders and a suspicious looking neighbor, and it looks like the Batgirls’ plans for a discreetly led life are going to be short-lived.

This is a comic that will certainly appeal to younger female readers who will instantly identify with the personalities of the three main characters: in Cass we have the quiet, thoughtful one who won’t take things lying down (a nod to her backstory as a trained child assassin); Steph – dressed in her Spoiler costume — is the impetuous, fun-loving one; while Babs/Oracle is the level-headed leader of the group who tries in vain to keep her two friends from exposing themselves to the criminal underworld. Cloonan and Conrad know what make girls tick (or, for that matter, any teenager whatever their gender): Steph is as enthusiastic about who gets first dibs on the top bunk as she is about accompanying Cass on a crime-fighting night-time excursion, and the comradeship and excitement of three friends moving in together is shown through simple pleasures like sharing meals, goofing off and the freedoms offered by living independently from adult male interference.

As a father of twin 11-year-old daughters, I was completely onboard with this comic; it doesn’t patronise the target audience, the ear for dialogue is deftly tuned in to how teenagers actually speak, and the affection the characters feel for each other is beautifully realised through Jorge Corona’s impressive artwork; he captures the attitudes of the three perfectly, making them recognisable through a series of sideways glances, defiant scowls, and hesitant expectation (in one page, wherein Bab’s excitement at revealing the bat-bikes is matched by Cass and Steph’s disappointment on seeing them, the individual characteristics are illustrated so effectively, the scene would have worked even without dialogue). It’s also to Corona’s credit that he doesn’t resort to the anime-like frenetic expressions (jumping up and down, arms waving, etc.) that can sometimes render teenage characters silly; these three are all-business, albeit with a streak of fun.


But enough of this old man’s ramblings, this is what my daughters had to say about Batgirls #1:

“We liked Cass and Steph the most, and the bit with the bat-bikes was really funny. The story was gripping and the way the girls spoke was really cool, especially Steph’s sarcastic “Decisions, decisions” when Babs offers her a choice of Pot Noods or Pot Noods. Looking forward to the next issue!”


Reviewed by Christopher, Daisy and Robyn Witty


Fantastic Four: The Prodigal Son #1 – Review

Back in the summer of 2019 when comics were plentiful, the Marvel universe welcomed Prah’d’gul (or Prodigal according to mishearing Ben Grimm) in three one-shot comics where our young visitor from space bumps heads with three of Marvel’s mainstream titles. First up it’s the Fantastic Four!

Fantastic Four: The Prodigal Sun #1

Written by Peter David
Art by Francesco Manna
Released: September 2019

Published by Marvel Comics

Back in the summer of 2019 when comics were plentiful, the Marvel universe welcomed Prah’d’gul (or Prodigal according to mishearing Ben Grimm) in three one-shot comics where our young visitor from space bumps heads with three of Marvel’s mainstream titles.

First up it’s the Fantastic Four, who at the time of publication had only just returned to Earth after a few years of unpublished adventures in an alternate dimension and were busy settling into the early stories of Dan Slott’s excellent monthly run.

Prodigal crashes in the Savage Land, a prehistoric jungle hidden in the Antarctica much loved by the X-Men and populated by Dinosaurs and various warring tribes of pre-agricultural types. Our hero barely has time to pull a dramatic pose before he’s eaten by a T-Rex who must lie in wait for crashing spaceships, so often do they occur in this supposedly secluded paradise. (This is a great recurring gag in Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers. Pause while I go and re-read the first few issues.)


Unfortunately for Rex, Prodigal is hard mouthful to swallow and he’s quickly exploding his way out and being proclaimed a God by the locals. This suits him fine and he’s soon got his new congregation looking for a replacement spaceship and stirring up trouble with the neighbouring tribes. It’s a quick start, but one-shots don’t let you hang around and soon enough Ka-zar and Shanna, the underdressed Heroes who rule the Savage Land, have got the FF on the phone asking for help getting rid of the troublesome interloper. Cue action.


Peter David knows his game and keeps the script light and frothy with plenty of jokes. The classic superhero meet-cute fuelled by misunderstanding and bravado is played for laughs but soon begins to wear thin. It’s all a bit one-note and silly and Prodigal mainly comes across as an arrogant jerk complete with annoying catch-phrase. Unfortunately, the limited page count doesn’t give him much opportunity to redeem himself. Perhaps in the following instalments we see a bit more of his character. A bit of mystery would have been welcome too.
There’s time for a touch of perfunctory back-story but the few lines we get doesn’t sound that original or exciting. Mostly this is all just an excuse to showcase Prodigal’s fairly conventional superpowers, which in world full of superheroes isn’t that interesting. Even the Fantastic Four don’t really get that much to do. Reed and Sue get a few nice moments but The Thing and Human Torch are barely in it. I think Johnny Storm gets one line.


Francesco Manna art is solid and dependable if a little short on the spectacular. Again, I think the limited page-count doesn’t give him a chance to really shine. There was a real missed opportunity to draw an exploding Tyrannosaur, which I’m sure he would have enjoyed. But no room for it. Shame.
Next up for Prodigal it’s back into space and if the cover is to be believed it’s a zero-gee dust-off with the Silver Surfer while a ringside Galactus places his bets before a final meeting with the Guardians of the Galaxy rounds off the trilogy. After that, who knows? Did Prodigal become a regular somewhere? Did he become interesting? Maybe I’ll look online to find out. Then again.


Verdict
Mostly fun but ultimately a conventional intro for a conventional character. Prodigal didn’t really excite and I don’t think the FF gained much by being in it. Next time Ka-zar calls you Reed, send the reserves and save yourself the bother.


Ross Kelly
30/12/21